BREAKING

Saturday, May 21, 2022

QR for Hunger: Nurturing and Saving Children from Hunger


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Save the Children Philippines ambassadors Liza Soberano and Katarina Rodriguez lead the launch of QR for Hunger to engage people interactively in addressing rising hunger and malnutrition among children in the Philippines.

According to the World Bank, hunger in the Philippines rose sharply following the start of the pandemic. A survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that in September 2020, 31% of Filipino families experienced hunger in the past 30 days and 9% were suffering from severe hunger – the highest levels recorded in more than 20 years.

In 2021 alone, 13.1% or 2.9 million children were estimated to be hungry.

“Hunger is exponentially depriving a generation of Filipino children of their rights and heavily impacts their growth and development in many ways. Thus, all actors, including governments, donors, and the general public, must collaborate to manage the risks of the hunger crisis and invest in anticipatory action to prevent rather than respond to crisis warnings,” said Save the Children Philippines CEO Atty. Albert Muyot.


 

QR for Hunger is an innovative digital movement of Save the Children Philippines that engages the public through a simple scan-to-donate feature using creative QR codes and gives people the chance to help “cure” hunger among children.

Funds raised through the QR for Hunger under the #SavetheChildrenfromHunger campaign will provide resources for health and nutrition interventions that will improve Save the Children Philippines’ sponsored communities’ access to food, and support parents and guardians in rehabilitating their malnourished children using diets based on local knowledge and resources.

“As a mother, I know how important it is to keep our children healthy – from exclusively breastfeeding my son Quino to preparing nutritious meals. But a lot of families in the country are unable to put food on the table as they are crippled by economic challenges from low wages, unemployment, and increasing prices of basic commodities,” said Rodriguez.

Dr. Amado Parawan, Health and Nutrition Advisor of Save the Children Philippines, said it is heartbreaking that the most stunted Filipino children are from farming and fishing communities. While they at forefront of producing our food, they remain to be one of the country’s poorest families.

1 in 3 children (30%) below five years old is stunted (low in height) for their age. This can be irreversible after two years, unless treated. When children are hungry, their academic performance also suffers.

Friday, May 20, 2022

SSS resumes updating of member’s contact information via My.SSS


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The Social Security System (SSS) announced today that member may update their contact information online starting May 16, 2022 after the state-run pension fund resumed the said online updating of record on the My.SSS portal.

In a statement, SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Regino said members using their My.SSS account can update or change their contact details, such as telephone number, mobile number, mailing address, foreign address, and e-mail address, without visiting any SSS branch to file their member data change request.
 
Those with no existing contact information except their mobile number may also update their contact details. On the other hand, members without registered mobile numbers with SSS need to visit any branch office to submit their mobile number using the Member Data Change Request Form, and set a branch appointment through their My.SSS account or they can do walk-in transactions following the schedule based on the last digit of their SSS number.
 
“We exerted all our efforts to expedite the completion of all the necessary IT enhancements for the My.SSS and provide our members a more convenient way of updating their contact information at the comfort of their homes or offices, 24/7. Moreover, it has always been our goal to give a better service to our members and help them facilitate their SSS transactions,” Regino said.
 
The state-run pension fund has suspended the online updating of contact details on the My.SSS starting on August 3, 2021 to enhance the online portal and boost its security features to protect the confidential information of its members.
 
The online updating of members’ contact details has now been reverted to give its members a more convenient and safer way of updating their SSS records.
 
Members can update their contact information by logging in to their respective My.SSS account and access the “Update Contact Info” which they can find in the “Member Info” menu.  They can also update or change their contact numbers, e-mail addresses, and mailing addresses, except their home address, and submit them online.
 
SSS will send a notification message to their existing or new e-mail address and mobile number. They just need to confirm their request to update their contact details by clicking the link sent to them.
 
SSS members only have three days to confirm their request because the link will immediately expire after that period, and they will have to repeat the process once again. After confirming their request, the updated contact information will take effect after two days and SSS will notify them that their contact details have been updated.
Regino urged all members to ensure that they provide their up-to-date contact information since communication about updates on their SSS transactions are based on these details.

Angono, Calbayog art schools beef up teaching, learning with more support from Rebisco


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Students of music, visual arts, performing arts, literary arts and media arts in Angono, Rizal and Calbayog, Samar received precious gifts from Rebisco, this summer.

 

The snacks and biscuits company made good on its promise to support the two schools’ mission of raising the next generation of artists and performers by providing a variety of tools, equipment, instruments and hardware to the Regional Lead School for the Arts in Angono (RLSAA) and the Calbayog Arts and Design School of Eastern Visayas (CADSEV).

As pandemic restrictions eased, Rebisco wasted no time in turning over its donations in person so gifted students of the two primary art and design schools in the land can better pursue their dreams of excelling in their chosen art forms.

RLSAA teachers and students were ecstatic last March when Rebisco representatives delivered brand new violins, angklung ensemble instruments, keyboards, microphones, high-end professional cameras, sound systems, LED lights and a new round of oil paints and pastels, brushes, pencils and other art materials to the school.








In April, CADSEV school head Dr. Rinalyn Beso welcomed Rebisco representatives who handed over equipment and hardware for their performing arts studios, musical instruments and video equipment.

Both the RLSAA and CADSEV schools feted their benefactors with rousing musical performances, with RSLAA students playing the classics and Filipino tunes and CADSEV students presenting Rebisco with a painting and a tinapa (smoked fish) sculpture made out of recycled Rebisco packs as thank you gifts. Tinapa is said to be a celebrated food product and industry in Calbayog.

“Our art students will make good use of your gifts, especially now that we have returned to a face-to-face set-up. They will help to develop our young artists’ skills because they now have the means to practice and enrich their innate talents with the very best materials. Rest assured they will use them well and they will give back by being recognized, not just in Samar but in the whole country, and hopefully the world,” said Dr. Beso.

 

Leo Cabacungan, Rebisco Assistant Brand Manager, said Rebisco wants to enable more artistically-inclined students to excel in their chosen art forms. “As one of the favorite Filipino snacks that has been a part of Filipino culture for generations, Rebisco wants to give back by nurturing Filipino artists and celebrating the wealth of Filipino talent that make our culture so rich and expressive.”

 

Rebisco has been and continues to be a passionate champion of art education. It had previously provided the RLSAA with an on-site art gallery cum classroom right in the school premises plus a wide variety of art equipment that its students lacked. It featured the works of outstanding art talents in its Special Designer Cans and vowed to make continued contributions to inspire more students to express their artistic capabilities. More recently, it added CADSEV as a beneficiary school.

The upgraded materials and equipment for the art students will improve the quality of the face-to-face learning experience, said the leaders of both schools. The timing of the donations could not have come at a better time.



Thursday, May 19, 2022

Philippine National Parks Slowly Coming to Life


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On the island of Camiguin in Mindanao, a volcano is coming back to life.

Though she hasn’t erupted in 70 years, Mt. Hibok-Hibok has been especially quiet lately. From March 2020 to November 2021, the Timpoong Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument hosted exactly zero visitors.

“Mt. Hibok-Hibok was once a popular hiking destination, especially after Pinoy Mountaineer featured it in 2007. Climbers came daily because our volcano offers elements of other famous Mindanao mountains: Mt. Apo’s crater lake, the roped ascents of Mt. Kitanglad, even Mt. Dulang-Dulang’s mossy forest. Visitors often dive straight to the sea after climbing, for Camiguin is surrounded by famed beaches like white island,” explains mountain guide Ronald Rabiles as we trek up a fern-filled trail.

Ecotourism is a vital lifeline of Philippine protected areas. Zero visitors mean no employment for guides and porters, plus less funds for park upkeep. Here in Mt. Hibok-Hibok, guides earn around PHP1500 (USD30) daily, while porters make PHP800 (USD16) for hauling 20 or so kilos of supplies.

“I come from three generations of mountain guides. This is a way of life for my father, myself and my son,” adds Ronald. “The two-year COVID lockdown hit us hard. Losing our main means of income was like sweeping the rug from under us. I had to look for other ways to support my five kids. Good thing I found temporary employment as a welder and day laborer. I’m one of the lucky ones: other guides tilled land just to feed their families.”



Visitors Trickling In

After two years, the country’s national parks are finally seeing an influx of visitors. Apo Reef in Occidental Mindoro hosted just 35 tourists from March 2020 to March 2022. Since reopening in April 2022, 212 people have visited the park, generating nearly PHP250,000 from fees. Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon, saw visitor numbers drop from over 43,000 in 2019 to just over a thousand in 2021. Numbers are rebounding with over 2700 visitors since January 2022, generating nearly PHP500,000 in revenues.

With easing travel restrictions, officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) hope to see more people visiting Mt. Hibok-Hibok and other Philippine national parks.

“We started accepting clients in December 2021. Since then, over 130 people have visited the mountain, generating about PHP31,000 in park fees and employing dozens of guides and porters. Clients are the lifeblood of the mountain,” says Camiguin-based DENR forester Lito Babaison.

We’re this month’s latest batch of visitors. Our mixed team from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Department of Tourism (DOT) and DENR employed over 20 guides, rangers and porters. We’re here to shoot a video for YoPA or the Year of the Protected Areas, slated to launch this 23 May.

A collaboration between the DENR, DOT and DILG, YoPA aims to bring visitors back to the country’s national parks – renowned biodiversity bastions like Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental, Bongsanglay Natural Park in Masbate and the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes in Negros Oriental.

“The Philippines hosts 246 protected areas and all of them need funding. With the challenges brought about by the COVID pandemic, government resources are thinly stretched, so part of upkeep funds must come from the public via ecotourism. A good way to sustain our protected areas is to ensure they’re regularly visited by tourists,” says DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) director Natividad Bernardino.







Climbing the Volcano

It’s tough going up Yumbing Trail, one of two paths up Mt. Hibok-Hibok. I’d just climbed a mountain in Africa and this trail is no walk in the park, bristling with thorny rattan palms which love to latch onto on clothing. Mountaineers call these teka-teka vines for “teka-teka” or “Wait a minute while I extricate myself from these damned vines!”

The two-day trek starts among a swaying sea of coconut palms. Soon the trail transforms into a Jurassic Park set, walls of green obscured by wet, rolling mist. Near the top, the trail opens up into a grassy crater several football fields wide. There’s a small lake where swiftlets and other birds play.

“Don’t talk or laugh too loudly,” cautions Ronald. “The old ones swear this mountain hosts an enchanted spirit guardian who lives in the lake.” I silently cancel my original plan of going swimming. That night Ronald swore he saw the spirit walking through our campsite, protecting us.


As we descend the next day, Ronald turns to me. “Climbers keep mountains alive, but some aren’t so disciplined. We guides aren’t just here to take you to the peak and back, but to ensure no one leaves garbage or lights a fire which can burn down the park. We also have plantitas who love to pluck orchids and other plants illegally. Like the guardian in the lake, we protect this mountain too. A beautiful mountain will attract visitors, which means we’ll always have jobs.”

Mt. Hibok-Hibok hasn’t erupted since 1953, but the fire of Ronald and its other protectors are definitely keeping this volcano stoked and alive.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Philippines among APAC winners of Microsoft's AI for Accessibility Hackathon to accelerate inclusive innovation


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Teams from Thailand, Singapore and Philippines are winners of the Microsoft AI for Accessibility (AI4A) Hackathon in APAC. In its third year, the AI4A Hackathon features teams who are deeply committed to solving real-world challenges faced by people with disabilities (PwD). The hackathon acts as a springboard for creators and developers to launch their applications, with cash prizes, access to Microsoft Technical experts to co-build their solutions on Microsoft Azure and continued mentoring support to build out their solution.

Drawing on real-life challenges faced by PwDs, 14 non-profit organizations (NPOs) shared problem statements that the 75 teams in the AI4A Hackathon used to build innovative solutions around the themes of transport, wearable devices and language tools.



Team Asclepius from Thailand, Team SWIFT Responders from Singapore and Team EIA from Philippines created solutions to bridge the disability divide, which include building an AI-enabled communication aid for people who are deaf, a smart system that allows people with physical disabilities to live independently, as well as inclusive banking for people who are blind.

In addition to these winners, two additional teams from Indonesia (Arabic Braille Converter) and Singapore (MeetMeHear) will receive coaching by Microsoft and its partners, including access to cloud architects, business consultation guidance to develop their solution, from a proof-of-concept to an application hosted on Microsoft Azure.


“We are inspired to see the continued enthusiasm of submissions this year for the hackathon to improve the lives of PwDs and congratulate the winners who so passionately brought their solutions to fruition,” said Pratima Amonkar, Chair for D&I and Accessibility for Microsoft Asia Pacific. “The month of May will be an important time for us to see the tremendous possibility of the contribution of PwDs as we roll out exciting awareness, training and mentorship programs with our customers, partners and wider community across the region.”

 

With more than 1 billion people with disabilities in the world, and 650 million in Asia, Microsoft believes that accessibility is essential to delivering on our mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” Accessibility is the vehicle to enable inclusion of people with disabilities. To highlight how technology can unlock solutions that empower people with disabilities and enable transformative change within communities in APAC, Microsoft has dedicated the month of May in 2022 to Accessibility Awareness Month, with a series of workshops, trainings and events as well as awarding and celebrating winners of the AI for Accessibility Hackathon winners.

 


Thailand: Team Asclepius

To help people who are deaf or hard of hearing, Team Asclepius from Thailand, developed a sign-to-text application that uses AI deep learning models to capture movement sequences and body postures that predicts alphabets, words and numbers based on American Sign Language. This group of passionate high school students from Thailand have ambitious plans to include other commonly used sign languages such as British and French Sign Language and enhance it for wider tech applications such as live web events.

 

Singapore: Team SWIFT Responders

From Singapore, Team SWIFT Responders designed an AI-enabled solution that supports the independent living of adult persons with muscular dystrophy who use motorized wheelchairs for mobility. The Support Wheelchair-user Independence Fall Tracker (SWIFT) smart system that they have developed renders immediate assistance to a wheelchair user who falls off-balance from their functional position. This inspires confidence for wheelchair users, and assures their caretakers, that they can live independently and engage in meaningful activity as their safety is assured.

 

Philippines: Team EIA

To build a more inclusive banking experience for the blind and the elderly, Team EIA from the Philippines developed an Accessibility and Vision Assistant (AVA), powered by AI and machine learning, that works as a smart financial assistant and mobile wallet for the blind and elderly that makes digital banking accessible and clear. This drives financial inclusion for these groups of people and enables them to access payments and banking services quickly and securely.

 

Two additional outstanding teams have won coaching by Microsoft and its partners to bring their projects into fully running applications hosted on Microsoft Azure:

 

1.     Arabic Braille Converter (Indonesia): an app that could scan and convert Arabic text or graphics into Indonesian Braille format which can be read by screen readers or braille displays. It also has the function to back-translate from Arabic Braille into Arabic text.

 

2.     MeetMeHear (Singapore): an app to assist the deaf and hard-of-hearing to better communicate with others during physical meetings, through the use of AI for speech recognition to provide more accurate live captions.

 

Problem Statements from Non-Profit Organizations

NPOs across the region contributed to the hackathon through problem statements, based on real experiences faced by PwD. Some of the problem statements shared include:

·        How can AI provide wearable devices that will help persons with visual impairment traverse the streets independently and safely?

·        How can AI provide accessibility for online applicant assessment tools such as language assessments, verbal reasoning tests, and abstract reasoning tests?

·        How might we automatically create closed captions for offline use to help the deaf and hard of hearing community?

 

The NPOs represent a variety of organizations committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities in Asia Pacific.

Korea – Korea Differently Abled Federation

Malaysia – Malaysia Pan-Disability Football Club

Philippines – AHA! Learning Center

Philippines – Atriev

Philippines – Project Inclusion

Philippines – Virtualahan

Singapore – SG Enable

Sri Lanka – MJF Charitable Foundation

Thailand – Tab Foundation

Thailand – The Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disabilities

United Nations Development Program

Vietnam – Disability Research and Capacity Development


Best Internet Modems for Your Home


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Nowadays, there are plenty of internet connections available in the market including fiber and DSL networks. With it comes to buying an internet connection, users usually go for a service that is fast in speed and economical in price. Therefore, we recommend cable-based internet service, which is incredibly fast, stable as well as reliable. However, it is not just the connection or the provider that delivers the speed. The equipment you install for establishing the connection is equally important, therefore, in this article, we will enlighten you about the best internet modems that you can use to maximize the speed of your service.

When it comes to the equipment, the internet modem is the most important device that determines the speed of your internet. There are two ways to acquire a modem for your connection. You can either buy the modem or rent one from your provider. Many service providers offer packages that come with all the equipment required to activate the service. For instance, Spectrum Internet offers a free internet modem along with all of its high-speed internet plans. In case you are looking to purchase your own modem, here are some of the best performing options in the market:

1.    Netgear CM-500

Download Speed: 686 Mbps

Upload Speed: 132 Mbps

Channels: 16 Down, 4 Up

Warranty: 1 Year

Top Compatible Cable Providers: Comcast Xfinity,  Spectrum, Cox Communications

J Solid Performance

J Good Compatibility

L Only One-Year Warranty

L Difficult Indication Lights

Netgear CM500 is one of the best modems available on the market. It is easy to find the one that works with most of the cable service providers in the industry. This modem is quite affordable and generally has good reviews on Amazon.

2.    Arris Surfboard SB-6183

Download Speed: 686 Mbps

Upload Speed: 131 Mbps

Channels: 16 Down, 4 Up

Warranty: 2 Years

Top Compatible Cable Providers: Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications

J Solid Performance with Dependability

J Good Compatibility

J Visible Indication Lights

L Poor Placement of Coaxial Cable

Arris Surfboard SB-6183 is by far the first choice of most users because of its top-notch performance and high compatibility with most providers. In addition to this, the modem comes with a two-year warranty, which is quite hard to find on internet equipment these days.

3.    Netgear CM-600

Download Speed: 960 Mbps

Upload Speed: 240 Mbps

Channels: 24 Down, 8 Up

Warranty: 1 Year

Top Compatible Cable Providers: Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications

J Solid and Reliable Performance

J Affordable Price

L Only One-Year Warranty

L Tall and Large Footprint

Netgear CM-600 is ideal for users who are looking for internet speeds of more than 300 Mbps. With no latency issues, this modem comes with upgraded firmware that enables it to take the performance aspect to another level. Although the modem is tall, it does have a futuristic appearance. 

4.    TP-Link TC 7610

Download Speed: 343 Mbps

Upload Speed: 143 Mbps

Channels: 8 Down, 4 Up

Warranty: 2 Years

Top Compatible Cable Providers: Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications

J Reliable Performance

J Affordable Price

L Not Compatible with High-Speed Internet

L Difficult Status Lights

TP-Link TC 7610 is perfect for households that do not require high-speed internet service. This modem comes at an economical price and works reliably with most providers, delivering speeds of up to 100 Mbps. Plus, it comes with a two-year warranty, which is another great rough user.

5.    Arris Surfboard SB-6141

Download Speed: 343 Mbps

Upload Speed: 141 Mbps

Channels: 8 Down, 4 Up

Warranty: 2 Years

Top Compatible Cable Providers: Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications

J Attractive Design 

J Economical Cost

J Two-Year Warranty 

L Does Not Support High-Speed Internet

Featuring one of the best modem designs, Arris Surfboard SB-6141 is quite a dependable modem that supports internet plans going up to 100 Mbps. For most households, this modem works exceptionally well as they are looking for reasonably priced equipment with great compatibility.

6.    Linksys CM-3008

Download Speed: 343 Mbps

Upload Speed: 120 Mbps

Channels: 8 Down, 4 Up

Warranty: 1 Year

Top Compatible Cable Providers: Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications

J Easy Setup  

J Reliable Performance

J Economical Price 

L Does Not Support High-Speed Internet

CM-3008 is another modem that works well in households that do not require high-speed internet connectivity. With a plain design, Linksys CM-3008 provides great functionality to users who do not want to spend much but are looking for all the features in their equipment.

7.    Arris Surfboard SB-6910

Download Speed: 1400 Mbps

Upload Speed: 262 Mbps

Channels: 32 Down, 8 Up

Warranty: 2 Years

Top Compatible Cable Providers: Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications

J Smart Design 

J Two-Year Warranty 

L Latency Issues

L Expensive

Supporting some of the fastest internet plans, Arris Surfboard SB-6910 performs exceptionally well delivering great bandwidth to backup all your online activities. However, since the modem comes with Puma 6 chipset, users have experienced some latency issues that can be resolved by updating the firmware. Apart from that, there are no performance problems in this modem.

Wrapping Up

In this article, we have mentioned some of the best internet modes in the market. Make sure that you check the compatibility with your service provider before purchasing the modem. You can contact the customer service department of your internet service provider to find out about the compatibility requirements of a modem with your internet connection.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

SMDC: Building places Filipinos can call home


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A home, to which one can call their own, is one of the most fundamental human needs for survival. In building one’s family, buying housing or investing in property is often a crucial discussion that takes into consideration price, location, amenities and even the environment as these all impact the way people and families live and grow and how communities thrive in the long-run.

Recently, the many changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Filipinos to reassess the way they live, work and reside. The topic on home ownership and residential space has only become much more prominent as its impact towards one’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing was emphasized when companies shifted to work-from-home setups and schools introduced blended learning. It has become likely that up and coming homeowners are looking for new and affordable housing that responds to the new realities of school and work, as well as a healthier and more self-sufficient lifestyle.




For leading real estate developer SM Development Corporation (SMDC), the residential arm of SM Prime Holdings, satisfying personal needs and meeting basic survival for the homeowners of today can be done through meaningful and strategic planning and property development.

Over the years, SMDC has been continuously redefining residential spaces to bring accessibility, convenience, function, style and sustainability in the face of evolving trends and lifestyle changes—assuring prospective buyers of the great value that SMDC properties offer.

This means presenting a range of residences located in prime urban and suburban communities, conveniently situated near major road networks and transportation hubs, and designed to reflect SM’s commitment to luxurious urban living. SMDC properties bring commercial retail shops, entertainment venues, banks and leisure facilities closer to residents against a backdrop of lush and walkable spaces. Such open spaces encourage homeowners to dwell outside and take a break from the isolation that has become a norm lately, and allow residents to safely interact with their neighbors. These spaces also provide amenities that promote a healthy lifestyle among the residents.

Across the available properties, prospect homeowners are able to choose their housing type to fit their own or their family’s needs and functions with units ranging from studio rooms to deluxe two-bedroom suites. On top of being able to customize their living spaces, state-of-the-art facilities such as 24-hour security and CCTV system, fire alarm system, numerous WIFI-ready zones and standby generator set ensures continuous function and prime livability.

However, SMDC’s promise not only pertains to providing a greater quality of life, but to also have its communities take an integral role in their commitment towards sustainability. SMDC aims to promote many green living practices by designing walkable and transport-friendly developments, introducing energy-saving and eco-friendly green buildings and encouraging effective waste management programs among residents. For the property developer, homes are seen as a legacy for future generations and should be built for sustainability and for ease in future modification.

With developments still ongoing and more projects in the pipeline, SMDC allows homebuyers the opportunity to have the home of their choice. Through its affordable investment and flexible payment options, new families or young millennials will be able to live independently in communities that cater to their specific needs.

With its ability to empathize and understand current housing needs while having the foresight to address evolving requirements, SMDC continues to create sustainable and resilient living spaces for Filipinos to call their own.

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